The Equality Act 2010 came into effect on 1 October 2010 although there are some provisions which are yet to be implemented. It aims to consolidate and harmonise the extensive existing law contained in Acts, Statutory Instruments, Codes of Practice and European Directives and extend it in a limited way.
The Equality Act will repeal the current discrimination legislation but the Government has not yet published transitional provisions governing which regime the old, the new or both, will apply to claims which are currently in progress.
The protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (or lack or religion or belief), sex and sexual orientation.
One contentious provision not yet in force is one allowing voluntary positive action in recruitment and promotion where two candidates are as qualified as each other.
Detailed guidance on the Equality Act is being rolled out gradually by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, including the recently published 311 page Statutory Code of Practice on Employment. Copies are available from the Commission’s website. www.equalityhumanrights.com
Key point: Employers should consider whether this consolidation may require a review of current procedures, amendments to employment documentation and/or diversity training. Employers should also be aware of the new prohibition of asking pre-employment health questions of a job applicant save in limited circumstances.